The time has come to bring the curtain down on Session/Law. As of today, we cease publication.
For going on six months, Session/Law has been covering the intersection of the lawyerly and the legislative, publishing 150 stories along the way. We had high hopes that a unique focus on the places where the shadows of Capitol and the courtroom cross might generate enough readership to interest sponsors and advertising dollars. That has not come to pass.
We do have a bunch of paid subscribers and we have many more free, registered readers. But in the end, the numbers don’t work. Not enough “eyeballs,” as the industry so ghoulishly terms it.
Given that, Session/Law simply costs more to operate and maintain than it generates, or is likely to generate. Upon long and difficult reflection, I conclude that it makes no sense to drive myself into bankruptcy, or murder myself trying to juggle the roles of reporter, editor, publisher, technologist and pitchman, when the niche has proved so narrow. After a long conversation with a trusted advisor who ran a business a lot like mine–one that, notably, no longer exists–I’ve come to agree that my business model is simply not sustainable, given the resources available.
To answer the question that usually comes next, yes, I think there are some things I could do to change Session/Law into a moneymaker. I’m just not willing to do them. A lobbyist friend early on told me that sites like mine, to succeed, must be “pay to play” operations. That comment was repugnant to me. But it’s probably true. I simply am not willing to go there.
Or I could amp up the tone, make Session/Law shrill and partisan. I could cynically traffic in conspiracies. Or I could pour rhetorical molten lead on the heads of my “enemies.” Problem is, I don’t really have any enemies.
That’s not who I am temperamentally or how I approach my work. I’m just a regular old warhorse reporter who works hard, values his professional reputation and remains in thrall to quaint concepts of journalistic ethics. Blame Gerry Connor, Henry Lippold and Les Polk, my old journalism instructors. They planted those old notions in my head and there they remain, now deeply rooted.
But I’ll tell you, I’ve loved Session/Law. And I’ve loved (mostly) the five and some odd years that I’ve spent covering the Capitol and courthouse beats. It’s been edifying as all hell and I’ve met a lot of fascinating and good people. I’ve met some horse’s asses, too, but they’re kind of fun in their own way.
Will I be back? I don’t know. Not immediately. I’m tired and a little burned out and I think that over the past year and a half since my son Zachary died I have thrown myself at my work rather in the same way that John Cleese launched that cow over the castle wall in the Monty Python movie. I think I’ve always known that a hard landing is inevitable unless I voluntarily step back.
Anyway, there are other kinds of writing I want to do, and I think a bit of time away from the grind of reporting will give me a chance to fiddle with those a bit.
My audience here is too small to sustain a business, but it’s not small in any ordinary sense. I couldn’t possibly thank everyone individually. Included among those are some super-readers who I think will really miss Session/Law. I know I will miss them.
I am gratified that Session/Law built up so much goodwill and respect. Some of my subscribers would impress the hell out of you, if I felt at liberty to tell you who they are. My peers in the Capitol press corps have been particularly supportive, but so have the folks that I’ve dealt with on a day-to-day level in the Judicial Branch, the governor’s office, Corrections, the AG’s office, the prosecutors’ shops and the legislative, lobbying and lawyering communities. I’ll miss those interactions. Most of all, I’ll miss my near daily conversations and collaboration with my co-author and mentor, Barbara L. Jones.
Of course, the complete story is never really written until you type in that final period. We’ll see what comes next.
For now, it’s a part-time job just to keep up the car payments and a lot more free time to relax, write, read and maybe make some music. My wife, Tammy, fully supports my decision to walk this path. She has been my unpaid editor throughout this enterprise and she knows exactly what I’ve been trying to accomplish and how much time I’ve spent doing it. She also knows how much she’s been neglected as I’ve tried. She agrees that it’s time to close down the opera house.
If you’re a paid annual subscriber, I will provide you a pro-rated refund. If you prefer not to be refunded, send me a note at [email protected] by Wednesday. Otherwise, you’ll be refunded that portion of your yearly subscription that hasn’t been fulfilled.
Thank you, so very much, for caring about Session/Law. Thank you, most of all, for your respect and appreciation. It is wholeheartedly returned.